There’s a plan proposed to save Gulf Coast Mental Health after $5M billing deficit

Harrison County supervisors have agreed to work with the state to keep the doors open at Gulf Coast Mental Health Center.

Last week, the grant-funded agency that provides mental health services announced it was out of money and would close by mid-August. Gulf Coast Mental Health serves thousands of residents in Harrison, Hancock, Stone and Pearl River counties.

The GCMHC is part of a statewide mental health network divided into regions and operating under standards set by the state Department of Mental Health.

Last week, the state said it would offer “limited financial resources” after the GCMHC board voted to shut down.

On Monday, the Harrison County Board of Supervisors unanimously agreed to pass a resolution to ask Gulf Coast Mental Health county board commissioners to adopt the state’s recommendations to keep the doors open. Supervisors from Hancock, Stone and Pearl River counties are also tasked with adopting or declining a resolution to be sent to their county’s board commissioners.

The board has been asked to have a decision for the state by Tuesday.

The agency did not collect about $5 million in billable payments from Medicaid, Medicare and insurance, Board President Marlin Ladner said.

The recommendation says the state will advance about $1.5 million, or 50%, to GCMHC from the fiscal year 2020 budget. The four counties serviced by GCMHC would also have to advance 50% of their projected 2020 funds, about $1.765 million. About $700,000 would come from Harrison County.

In addition, GMHC would have to follow specific guidelines from the state:

  • Develop a sustainable business plan within 10 days.
  • Make sure services provided are being appropriately billed to applicable payors, including Medicaid.
  • Provide a monthly financial report to the board commissioners and boards of supervisors. The report shall be conducted by a third party.
  • Hire a new chief financial officer.
  • Hire a new chief executive officer.

Harrison County added a condition. The agency must ask for assistance from another similar agency like Pine Belt Mental Healthcare Resources.

“The board was blindsided by the July 16 letter announcing the Gulf Coast Mental Health Center would be closing,” the supervisors said in a press release.

Supervisors said they learned about financial issues at GCMHC on June 10 and released the rest of the fiscal year 2019 funds budgeted from Harrison County to the agency.

“This is a very temporary solution,” said Jeff Clark, public information officer for the Harrison County supervisors. “The most important thing is to keep the doors open.”

Clark said the plan laid out by the state is “working toward long-term sustainability” by Tuesday.

Adam Moore, director of communications for the state’s Department of Health, said the state will continue discussions with commissioners this week and hopes to have more information to share by Wednesday.

The Sun Herald has reached out to Vickie Taylor, interim executive director for GCMHC, for comment.